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ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students

ACLU blasts DeVos for telling schools to report undocumented students
© Greg Nash

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is slamming Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosHouse committee subpoenas Education Department staff over for-profit colleges DeVos says it isn't Department of Education's job to track schools' coronavirus reopening plans Judge calls Devos student loan forgiveness process 'disturbingly Kafkaesque' MORE after she said Tuesday that schools should decide whether to report undocumented students to immigration enforcement officials.

During DeVos’s testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy On the Money: Administration to ban TikTok, WeChat | House moves toward bill to avoid government shutdown | Coronavirus relief bills boosted GDP, CBO says MORE (D-N.Y.) grilled the Education secretary for her stance on immigration enforcement.

“Inside the school, if a principal or a teacher finds out that a certain child is undocumented, or his or her family members are undocumented, do you feel that the principal or teacher is responsible to call [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and to have that family reported?” Espaillat asked DeVos.

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“Sir, I think that’s a school decision,” DeVos said in response. “That’s a local community decision. And again, I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate, and I urge this body to do its job and address or clarify where there is confusion around this.” 

In a statement, the ACLU disagreed with DeVos, citing the Supreme Court decision in Plyler v. Doe, which makes clear that public schools are obligated by the Constitution to provide schooling for children, regardless of their immigration status, The Washington Post reports.

“Let’s be clear: Any school that reports a child to ICE would violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made clear that every child in America has a right to a basic education, regardless of immigration status,” ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns said in a statement obtained by the Post. “Secretary DeVos is once again wrong.”

The exchange arrives amid an ongoing immigration debate under the Trump administration, with the president threatening to send leaders of so-called sanctuary cities to jail and an increase in immigration enforcement. 

Immigration agents have historically avoided schools, according to the Post. A memo advised agents in 2011 to avoid enforcement activities at “sensitive locations,” which includes schools, hospitals and churches.